Well, well, well.
I’ve been at my site for three weeks now. Three weeks of socializing, integrating, and working. It’s been a blur, but every day is exhausting in the best way possible. My little home away from home (Kibilizi) is truly wonderful. My health center isn’t perfect…but it’s damn near close to it. This is due, in large part, to the tituilare and the great staff. My tituilaire (supervisor) is fabulous, you guys. She’s intelligent, kind, and stubborn. So…naturally…her stubbornness appeals to me and I feel eternally grateful that my supervisor is a take-charge female. My counterpart is a young guy who’s currently in university, getting his masters of development. We get along splendidly…he’s basically the nicest guy ever. He’s responsible for the ninety-something Community Health Workers that work for our health center. Needless to say…he’s got his hands full. Even still, he’s always willing to help me with whatever I want to do (project-wise or research-wise). In return, I’ve been helping him translate his thesis. (Who needs a tutor, anyhow!) The rest of the staff is just as awesome. They’ve been incredibly willing to let me shadow them to learn the ins and outs of our health center.
It took a bit to get settled into my new home. (And by a bit I mean one day only, because my tituilaire wanted me to start work asap.) After some weird hours the first week, I’ve finally established a schedule.
Monday through Friday I go into work for our 7:00AM staff meeting (thank the lawwwd the health center is only a 5 minute walk from my house.) We sing our prayers (I stand there and sway, since everything’s in Kinyarwanda). Then, we all go off to our separate service areas. I usually head straight to the community health room…since that’s really what I’m here for.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I help one of my co-workers weigh malnourished babies and distribute milk and supplements to the mamas. It’s hard seeing some of the infants who are very obviously malnourished. I can only be grateful that my health center has a clear action plan. And, out of ~3500 infants weighed since January, only 6 have been malnourished. That’s extremely low for Rwanda. The milk distribution usually lasts until noon…and that’s my quittin’ time. (At least for the time being, while I work on my research.)
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take time to shadow different departments. My favorite thus far has been observing patient visits. Every patient is like a new episode of House. Seriously. There’s not many instruments or tools available to the physicians out here. They have a scale and a blood pressure cuff. That’s it. So the patient comes in, tells the doc his or her symptoms and then BOOM! Doc makes a diagnosis. Anyone exhibiting signs of a fever are tested for malaria. Here in the South, nine times out of ten, they test positive and are treated right away (the test takes only 20 minutes). The most interesting case I’ve seen thus far involved a young female who came in to report seizures. She had kept a very detailed notebook of the four seizures she’d had in the last year. She even wrote down what she had eaten that day, where she went, etc. (This is super out of the ordinary in Rwanda; she was on top of her stuff.) The doctor and I talked about it for a bit, after she left, and I discovered that the only treatment for epilepsy, in Kibilizi at least, is medication. (In all honesty, they push meds here just as much as they do in America.) The problem with that is that this poor girl will probably never know why she’s having seizures. They just started out the blue and she’ll take medications to manage it. No dietary restrictions (you can’t really work around those here). No counseling (not many counselors know what to say about epilepsy). No “stay away from flashing lights, etc.”. The doctor said, in all likelihood, the girl will never return to the health center and will just “deal with” the pain of monthly seizures.
It might sound all bad, but it’s really not! In fact, America could learn a lot from this place. One of the best things about Rwanda is their health insurance. Here, it costs 3000 RWF a year for one person. (That’s roughly $4.42 and about three weeks’ salary for a middle-income Rwandan.) From what I’ve seen…the insurance covers most everything. Yes, there are deductibles and what not…but nothing like America. Most people can get seen, tested, get medication, and get counseling without having to pay anything out of pocket. I’m a fan.
Most days I’m done by noon and then I go home, cook, and work on my research (Community Needs Assessment). I’m having a great time with it! I miss being in school…a bit and this is helping with my term paper blues.
It hasn’t all been work, work, work, though.
Last weekend we had our Southern regional meeting, so I got to see some of my H6-ers. When I’m at site, I don’t really get the chance to get lonely. There’s always something to do or someone to see. Howeverrr, it’s always nice to get a little American time. And even though we’re a bunch of rag-tag idiots when we get together…I love my fellow volunteers. It was also nice getting to meet the H5, E5, and E4 volunteers who live in the South. (Since I had originally been in the East, these were all new faces.) You never know what to expect when meeting new volunteers…we’re all so different. As it turned out, I had a blast and everyone was more than welcoming in showing us around Butare. I feel a lot more comfortable going there now that I’ve explored a bit. (Found a store that sells homegoods and I bought a non-stick frying pan. REVOLUTIONARY, I tell you.) Anyhow, we drank, ate, danced, and we were merry. After, we went back to our hotels and slept.
I had an awful night’s sleep; got a solid 3 hours in. (Not that Vanessa snores or anything…) I guess my body just knew it wasn’t “home”.
Speaking of which, here’s what the main street into my town looks like:
My favorite aspect of the last few weeks has been getting used to living entirely on my own. Before I left the States, I had only one roommate (and let’s just say we weren’t exactly besties). But even one roommate isn’t the same as living alone. IT’S BLEEPING AMAZING, GUYS. Sometimes I get slightly lonely (or even scared…it gets DARK here, ya’ll). Howeverrr…nothing beats being able to spend all Sunday wrapped in a igitenge and not having to look presentable in the slightest.
On top of that…figuring out the cooking aspect has been a blast and a half. I can’t really have a charcoal stove (even though it’s the cheapest option). There’s just no room on my front porch and it’s too messy. (I am going to figure out how to manage a campo stove/oven, though! Must cook banana bread!) Instead, I’ve been using a little petrol stove and it’s been working out great. Quick, easy, not too messy. I hate the smell, but bi baho! Most days, I cook green beans, onions, potatoes and pasta (usually flavored with taco seasoning, alfredo, chicken broth, or a soy sauce mixture.) Sometimes I get cray and decide I just have to have fried chapatti, scrambled eggs, and home fries. Other days, I try to switch it up and have avocado rice and veggies. I’m trying to avoid pasta as much as possible, but it’s so damn filling. On the weekends, I usually eat oatmeal with fried bananas and honey straight from Southern Rwanda. I’ve never been a fan of honey…but this stuff is delicious. If I’m feeling up to it…I boil milk and make coffee. But it would be so much easier if I could get my french press sent to me…coffee every morning would make me a happier camper. (Cough…mom…cough…dad.)
As far as how things are going on a more global scale…I’m not sure what’s getting out, news wise, about ebola. As of now, there are over 2,200 deaths in West Africa. The virus has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Senegal, and Nigeria. Additionally, a separate strain of ebola has claimed over 35 lives in the Congo…in just the last three weeks. Without a doubt, both outbreaks will spread without further precautions. Many countries have shut their borders, but still expect at least one or two cases to make it through. The problem is…it feels as though the world has abandoned West Africa. That, if borders are shut and the virus is contained within those few countries…that’s it. That’s the best that we can do. But it’s absolutely not. Here’s an article that just about sums up my feelings: Liberian President Pleads with Obama.
Anyhow…there’s my rant on ebola. Let me reiterate: The contents of this website are solely mine & do not reflect any position of the United States government or the Peace Corps.